Sustainable Food and Agriculture

Championing Sustainable Agriculture in the Caribbean region of Colombia

Colombia ranks among the 17 most biodiverse countries in the world, hosting approximately 15 percent of the endemic species of the planet.
21 February 2020

Natural Resources under threat 

Colombia ranks among the 17 most biodiverse countries in the world, hosting approximately 15 percent of the endemic species of the planet. The natural resources of the Caribbean region of Colombia have been increasingly exploited since the sixteenth century. While this exploitation has driven economic growth, it has also caused considerable environmental degradation and fragmentation of strategic ecosystems and protected areas.

Over time, the use of unsustainable practices has increasingly posed a threat to the region’s rich biodiversity, diminished rural communities’ resilience to climate change, and weakened their food security. In order to address the issues in the region, a new approach was required.

Supporting Sustainable Development

In 2016, Colombia’s Government and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) selected FAO to implement the BioCaribe Connectivity Strategy (Conexión BioCaribe), developed to reduce the degradation and fragmentation of the strategic ecosystems of the Caribbean region of Colombia, which covers 10 percent of the country’s overall territory, and is home to almost approximately 9.7 million people.

The project’s goal was to foster socio-ecosystem connectivity (SEC), including inter-institutional articulation, territorial planning, social participation, and the promotion of sustainable production models. Crucially, the project championed traditional and local knowledge and practices as proven, viable means of safeguarding ecosystems. 

Working alongside Colombia’s Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, National Natural Parks, regional governments, the GEF, and other partners, FAO has sought to translate the BioCaribe Connectivity Strategy’s vision into reality through three key action areas:

  • Strengthening institutional coordination and mainstreaming the socio-ecosystem approach in land-use planning;
  • Creating new protected areas and improving the management of existing protected areas in the region;
  • Adopting alternative models of sustainable production and strategies to ensure the supply of local ecosystem services.

Efforts were made to facilitate comprehensive conservation, restoration and sustainable use practices at landscape level, while promoting dialogue among communities in the region and valuing the insights from traditional local knowledge and practices. A number of indigenous, Afro-descendant and mestizo[1] communities, as well as NGOs, schools, universities, and private sector organisations contributed to the implementation of the BioCaribe Connectivity Strategy.

[1] Mestizo Colombians are Colombians of Spanish and Native American descent. 


Outcomes of the project 

Today, the project is having a positive impact on both marine and terrestrial ecosystems in the Caribbean region of Colombia, with a significant number of hectares of connectivity corridors created, a rise in protected areas, and increased adoption of sustainable production and conservation plans across the region.

The socio-ecosystem approach is helping to strengthen ties between the rich diversity of regional identities and the environment they inhabit, promoting dialogues and exchanges between technical, ancestral and traditional forms of knowledge. The expressions, values and sociocultural traditions of ethnic communities are being championed and respected. Local communities, families and farmers have learnt about, and adopted, the SEC approach through farmers’ field schools.

Fostering engagement

The project has also opened new paths of engagement and interaction, especially among the youth in the region. Young members of the communities covered by the project have started using social and digital media to share the achievements, challenges, events and success stories emerging from the BioCaribe Connectivity Strategy.

These communication collectives, promoted and supported by Conexión BioCaribe, are driving increased participation and mobilization among communities, providing a culturally appropriate instrument that empowers all participants. Through this thriving digital network, young women and men are embracing the concept of conservation and connectivity, expanding its reach, and making it their own.

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